Camera Night at the Ivar
"It's cold out there. Colder than a ticket taker's smile at the Ivar Theatre on Saturday night" Tom Waits - Nighthawks at the Diner
Featuring photographs by: Norman Breslow, Bill Dane, David Fahey, Anthony Friedkin, Michael Guske, Ryan Herz , Beth Herzhaft, Paul McDonough
The Ivar Theatre in Hollywood has inspired lyrics in the songs of Tom Waits. Photographer Garry Winogrand's images of Ivar strippers have been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art. The Ivar started life as a legitimate performance theater when it first opened in 1951. Performers through the years have included Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce and many others. Elvis made a movie there. The Grateful Dead played there in 1966. The theatre changed hands frequently and, in the 1970’s, it eventually became a full-nudity strip joint - one of the last standing “Burlesk” houses in the United States.
The Ivar was lewd and notorious in its day. It was described by its patrons as “a chamber of desperation, a mausoleum for souls -- on and off the runway.” Ross MacLean, one time stage manager and spotlight operator for two years, says "It's difficult to convey how bizarrely un-sexy and un-romantic the place was. A lot of the girls just danced around in street clothes, and took them off with about as much charm as someone undressing in a locker room.”
Sunday and Tuesday evenings were camera nights, where for the cover charge the customers could take as many pictures as they liked. Each girl's show lasted twenty minutes; she was required to be fully undressed after five, and a minimum of five minutes was to be used with "floor work": moving about either seated or prone on the runway. If a customer put a dollar on the catwalk, the performer would give him an up-close and very personal view of her body. A dancer could do from one to three shows a day; for each they were paid seven dollars.
At the time the club drew many now-notable photographers including Winogrand (who according to historian John Szarkowski, shot 150 rolls of film there), Bill Dane, David Fahey, Paul McDonough and Anthony Friedkin to name a few. drkrm is drawn to curating this exhibit for many reasons. It was a time when these photographers were somewhat known but not on the level they are now and some were all part of a greater circle in New York City that also included Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Tod Papageorge. Some of them were good friends and used to shoot together, even following each other out to California.